In 1990, M-1 headed to Tallahassee to attend FAMU (Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University) where he and stic.man met and formed a relationship due to their mutual love of music and similar leftist political ideology. There, their views solidified, M-1 becoming particularly interested in the Black Panther Party.
M-1 joined the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement in Chicago for three years, stic.man remained in Florida. Burned out by the arduous labor of Uhuru, M-1 and stic.man chose to focus on music. Brand Nubian's Lord Jamar discovered them in New York City and signed them a deal with Loud Records. Although dead prez was not always Loud's top priority, they built a fan base due to their over-the-top performances (they've been known to ignite dollar bills and toss apples into the audiences, declaring that they must eat healthily).
Prior to the release of their debut album in 2000, they had already contributed songs to film soundtracks and made featurings on high-profile albums. Their first recorded song, "The Game of Life (Score)" appeared on the 1997 soundtrack to the film Soul in the Hole. In 1998 their song "D.O.P.E. (Drugs Oppress People Everyday)" was featured in the movie Slam. Also in 1998, they were featured on the skit "The Rain and the Sun" off Big Pun's album Capital Punishment, and in 1999 were featured on The Beatnuts' song "Look Around" off their album Musical Massacre.
The duo's debut album was 2000's Let's Get Free, with their most popular single to date "Hip Hop". The album was well received by critics, and included intense political monologues featuring prominent black activist Omali Yeshitela, as well as "Animal in Man" - a retelling of George Orwell's Animal Farm. The instrumental version of their song "Hip Hop" was used as Dave Chappelle's entrance music for his show on Comedy Central, and can be heard on every episode. "Hip Hop" has also been featured on the soundtrack of the popular video game SKATE as well as underground graffiti art documentaries of the era. In 2001 they collaborated with The Coup, another politically active hip hop outfit, to release Get Up.
In 2002, dead prez contributed to Red Hot + Riot, a compilation album created by the Red Hot Organization in tribute to the music and work of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. The money raised by the CD was used for various charities devoted to raising AIDS awareness and fighting the disease. They collaborated with fellow hip-hop artists Talib Kweli and Bilal and Brazilian singer Jorge Ben to remake the famous Fela Kuti song "Shuffering and Shmiling" for the album. Also in 2002, dead prez released the independent mix tape Turn off the Radio: The Mixtape Vol. 1, followed by the release of Turn off the Radio: The Mixtape Vol. 2: Get Free or Die Tryin' in 2003. Also in 2003, their song "Hell Yeah" was featured in the 2 Fast 2 Furious soundtrack. In 2004, Columbia Records finally released Revolutionary But Gangsta. They were featured in the film Dave Chappelle's Block Party, in 2006.